Review of Home for Christmas: Stories for Young and Old, Compiled by Marian Le Blanc, Illustrated by David G. Klein, The Plough Publishing House, copyright 2002
“Their looks responded with that indefinable expression which always follows when a speaker has uttered the thought which has been slumbering in the hearts of his listeners.” (p. 79)
These words describe the reaction of those gathered in “The Other Wise Man” by Henry Van Dyke as they contemplate the possibility of the journey which three of them (four in Van Dyke’s classic story) took to Bethlehem so long ago.
In essence those words summarize my own experience with the stories included in this splendid volume of Christmas stories which includes offerings from Pearl Buck, Rebecca Caudill, Henry van Dyke, and others. None of these stories describe what we might recognize as a “Hallmark Christmas.” There is little that is stereotypically sentimental in these. Rather, each one takes you on a journey into human experiences of loss and struggle which are somehow miraculously transformed by the Incarnation. Indeed, I found a need to read slowly and with some intentionality and to pause after reading each one, taking in its meaning for my own life and experience.
It is called Home for Christmas and yet, I expect you will not at first recognize most of the ‘homes’ you are invited to visit here, spread-out across time and space and experience as they are. Indeed, for one thing, none of these stories are ‘new.’ They come from different cultures and nations as well as varying experiences of class. Indeed, in some cases you will, no doubt, be struck by the varying sensibilities displayed with regard to gender and race which reflect other times. Even with that, however, I did not find it too difficult to set these aside and to come away with the essential message and intent of the stories. Through it all, as you read I expect you will find yourself ‘coming home’ in understanding and in faith and yes, perhaps in your ‘coming home’ you will not only find yourself returning to the somehow familiar, but also somehow changed.
Besides reading these for my own personal enrichment, I am wondering how these might be shared in the congregation I call home. They would work well as discussion starters for a mall group. One or several might add to the gatherings at Midweek Advent Services. Any number of them might read well at a Christmas Day Service.
I would commend this volume of stories to you and I would be eager to hear how they shape your own journey or how they might impact the faith journeys of those in your ministry setting as well.